ARRIAGA, Mexico — The thousands of migrants traveling through southern Mexico toward the United States border poured into the rail town of Arriaga on Friday, filling the town’s main park and the surrounding streets, clustering together in spare shade under a torridly hot sun.
Their arrival came a day after news broke in Washington that President Trump was considering sealing the southwestern border to all migrants. But the revelation barely registered here. The migrants had other things on their minds.
With their arrival in Arriaga, on the 15th day of their journey, they had reached a literal and figurative crossroads.
The town has historically been a place of big decisions for migrants making the northward trek from Central America.
This is near a fork in the road between two northbound migratory routes — one passing through the state of Oaxaca and the other through the state of Veracruz. It also offers a range of travel methods, including La Bestia — The Beast — the infamous freight train that hundreds of thousands of migrants have illegally ridden north.
Acner Adolfo Gutiérrez Rodriguez, 30, a Honduran migrant seeking work in the United States, was sprawled under the low-hanging boughs of a tree, near the railroad tracks that slice through Arriaga.
He said he and his two traveling companions, men he met on the road, were waiting for guidance from the caravan’s de facto leadership, one that has organically emerged among the migrants.
“There are rumors that we are going to be helped with buses,” he said. “Or we will go by train. And if not, on foot.”
The caravan is still at least 2,200 miles by road — and perhaps several weeks — from Tijuana, the likely border destination.
Amid the challenges of the road, the caravan’s migrants have mostly remained oblivious to the noise of American politics; their concerns have been focused on immediate matters of survival.
In Arriaga, some were treated for blisters, dehydration and other ailments at medical tents run by the government and community groups. Several men stripped to their underwear and bathed under a hose connected to a water truck. Most laid down in the shade and tried to nap.
The stop in Arriaga also comes amid a gradual erosion of the caravan. Though still large and robust, the core group has waned in recent days as smaller groups have cleaved off and gone ahead, moving ahead at a faster pace.
Other migrants have fallen behind, slowed by injuries and sickness. Still others have stopped altogether, applying for asylum in Mexico or turning around and heading home.
On Friday, Melvin Josue Gómez, 21, who was killed on Monday when he fell off a truck while traveling with the caravan, was buried in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
“Even though he was young, there weren’t work opportunities for him in this place,” said his father, Melvin Gómez, during the wake. “So, necessity made him leave the country to search for the American dream.”
The caravan’s advocates say attrition is normal.
Furthermore, they say, taken together, the various groups associated with the caravan still number closer to the 7,000 or so at its apparent peak, soon after it crossed into Mexico last week, than to the current count of fewer than 4,000 offered by the Mexican government.
In addition, another smaller caravan is reportedly moving through Guatemala. The Rev. Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Casa Del Migrante shelter in Guatemala City, said a group of about 800 people left the capital on Friday bound for Mexico.
In response, the Mexican government has sent military personnel to the Mexico-Guatemala border to discourage illegal crossings, according to Sergio Seis, an official in charge of immigrants in the border town of Ciudad Hidalgo.
Mr. Seis also said that Mexican immigration officials had detained 350 migrants associated with the second caravan on Friday, suggesting a shift in government strategy. The authorities have generally left the larger caravan alone, though they have encouraged its participants to apply for legal immigration status.
On Friday, President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico announced a plan to offer benefits, including temporary work permits, to Central Americans in the caravan if they applied for refugee status. To qualify, the migrants must be in the southern states of Oaxaca or Chiapas, where most of the caravan is currently located.
Mr. Trump’s repeated criticisms of the caravan since its inception on Oct. 12 in Honduras have not dented the resolve of the group and, indeed, may have hardened it.
They also appeared to have inspired some government officials in Guatemala and Mexico, as well as community groups and ordinary citizens, to double their efforts to help the caravan.
On Thursday, Hector Meneses, the mayor of Pijijiapan, where the caravan stopped for the night, delivered a rousing speech in the town’s central square. He criticized American foreign policy and encouraged the migrants to keep pushing north.
“In Latin America, young people don’t have a future,” he said. “Why would we go looking for it in the United States? Because for many years they took the riches of Latin America.”
He added: “For that, they owe us work.”
The large size of the caravan, though making for slow progress, has provided participants with safety from the thieves and gangs that prey on migrants in Mexico. It has also apparently discouraged the Mexican authorities from trying to detain all of them.
Heriberto Fuentes Rivera, 30, who had traveled with his son from Copán, Honduras, said on Friday that he was hesitant to split from the main group.
“The problem is that if some of us get too far ahead, they’re going to grab us,” he said, speaking of the authorities and the fear of deportation.
But for many, fatigue and illness were proving to be a strong test of will.
On Friday, Evelyn Perdomo Ortiz, 31, a migrant from Puerto Cortez, Honduras, was resting with her mother and her 9-month-old niece in Arriaga’s central square. The infant was running a fever and suffering from bronchitis.
“The children are tired, burned by the sun and sick,” Ms. Perdomo said. “But it’s still worth it to be here.”
She was convinced that Mr. Trump, despite his threats against the group, would eventually open the border to them.
“God will touch the heart of everyone,” she said. “He can turn hearts of stone into ones of flesh.”